Lee County Biographies



James L. McGinnis, who owns and operates a well-improved farm of seventy-three acres on section 1, Palmyra Township, that has been in the possession of the family since 1838, was born in New York on North River, August 22, 1831. For some years during his boyhood, he was reared in the heart of what is now Central Park, the most famous resort of that kind in New York City. His father, Stewart McGinnis, was born in the North of Ireland, February 22, 1802, and was of Scotch-Irish descent. His father died when he was quite young and with his mother he afterward came to the United States. Some years previous, his elder brother, James, had crossed the Atlantic, and in the War of 1812 fought for his adopted country. This little family settled in New York City, where the mother died at an advanced age, and her son James some years later. Stewart McGinnis, father of our subject, became an architect, learning his trade in New York City, and built the first saw and planning mill in the Empire State. In fact, it was one of the first in the East. This so enraged the laboring people that they tried to organize a mob to kill him, as they thought such an enterprise would ruin the working classes. Later, Mr. McGinnis built many sugar mills between New York City and New Orleans, and while thus engaged lost his life on a burning vessel in 1838. He was a prominent man in his day in the East and in the Southern States. Although of Irish birth, he was a Protestant in religious belief.

In New York City Mr. McGinnis married Miss Mary Law, sister of Dr. G. H. Law, whose sketch appears elsewhere in this work. She was born in County Antrim, Ireland, February 24, 1813, and was a maiden of only five summers when her parents came to the United States in 1818. She is yet living at the age of seventy-nine years and makes her home with her son William. Her mental and physical faculties she retains to a remarkable degree and she yet does much work in her flower garden, which is a most beautiful spot. Throughout life she has been a member of the Presbyterian Church, and by those who know her she is greatly beloved. Her family is noted for longevity, her mother having reached the advanced age of one hundred and two years. Four of the children are yet living: Margaret makes her home with her mother; our subject is the next younger; Keziah is the widow of Marcus Bryant, who was a nephew of William Cullen Bryant, the poet, and her home is in Princeton, Ill.; William, the other member of the family, was born and reared in the Empire State but has spent the greater part of his life in Lee County, where he now owns a seventy-three-acre farm in Palmyra Township. He enlisted for the late war in 1861, as a member of Company A, Thirteenth Illinois Infantry, under Capt. Noble and Col. Wyman, the regiment joining the Western Army. He participated in the battles of White River, Vicksburg, Chickasaw Bayou, the Siege of Vicksburg, the battles of Lookout Mountain, Mission Ridge, Ringgold Valley and many others of less importance. He was always found at his post of duty, ready to respond to every call, and throughout the service escaped uninjured, save that he lost one finger, which was shot off at the Siege of Vicksburg. With the exception of three years spent at Princeton, Ill., since coming West he has resided continuously in Lee County, and is one of its honored and respected farmers, esteemed by all for his sterling worth.

James McGinnis has been a resident of the county since 1839. He was a lad of but eight years at the time of his arrival and in his boyhood was inured to the hardships of farm labor and the experiences of pioneer life. He has made agriculture his life work, and carried it on uninterruptedly, with the exception of a short period spent in California. In 1852 he crossed the plains with a team of oxen and yoke of cows and spent five years in the mines, meeting with fair success. He returned by way of the Isthmus of Panama in 1857, and after one year spent in St. Paul, Minn., again came to Illinois.

The lady who is now Mrs. McGinnis bore the name of Mary Becker. She was born in Reading, Pa., August 28, 1834, and was quite young when with her parents she came West. Her family is mentioned fully in the sketch of Charles A. Becker. Her education was acquired in Chicago and she is a lady of intelligence and culture. Unto Mr. And Mrs. McGinnis have been born nine children, and the family circle yet remains unbroken. In order of birth they are as follows: W. Charles, Ella, Mabel, James F., Keziah, Mark E., Harry, Oliver and Paul, all at home except W. Charles, who married Miss Sarah E. Hodge, and resides in Dixon, Ill. The McGinnis household is noted for its hospitality, and the members of the family rank high in the social world. Father and sons are all Republicans in political belief. Our subject is one of the well-known citizens of this community, and as a worthy representative of an honored pioneer family well deserves representation in this volume.

1892 Portrait and Biographical Record Lee Co Pg 452


Lee Co Bios

Illinois - "Our Way"